Depleted 'Bows still battling
There is no truth to the rumor that the University of Hawai'i men's basketball used a medevac helicopter to get to Ruston, La., yesterday.
The Rainbow Warriors are battered and bruised entering today's Western Athletic Conference game against Louisiana Tech, but they still plan to battle for their WAC Tournament life.
"Hey, the season's not over just because we got a couple guys out," senior forward Petras Balocka said. "Now is the time for us to do something, when everybody else thinks we're done."
Truth be told, it would take a monumental effort from a diminished roster.
Hawai'i is 9-14 overall and in eighth place in the current WAC standings at 2-8. LaTech is 19-5 overall and in third place at 7-3.
The game is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. (Hawai'i time) and will be broadcast live via radio on ESPN 1420 AM.
The 'Bows have lost their past five games, including a 65-60 home loss to this same LaTech team on Jan. 23.
"We've been the underdog all year long," Hawai'i head coach Bob Nash said. "We haven't taken care of business, so the label is sticking right now ... but we're going to do everything we can to try and win games."
The 'Bows will have to do it without their two best 3-point shooters.
Junior guards Jeremy Lay and Dwain Williams will not play for different reasons. Lay discovered this week that he needs a hernia surgery that will keep him out the rest of this season.
Williams is still serving an indefinite suspension for violating team rules. He has missed the last six games.
Hawai'i ranks last in the WAC with 115 3-pointers, and Williams (31) and Lay (28) combined to make 59 of those.
Their absence also has created a dearth of guards on the Hawai'i roster. Starting point guard Hiram Thompson is basically the only experienced backcourt player.
Forwards Roderick Flemings and Adhar Mayen filled in as shooting guards earlier this season, and will have to do it again today. Also, sophomore walk-on Leroy Lutu Jr. — who is averaging 4.7 minutes per game — will likely have to play an expanded role.
"The guys that we have healthy and ready to go are preparing as best as we can to go in and give great effort," Nash said.
The 'Bows are trying to stay ahead of Boise State in the WAC standings. The ninth-place Broncos are 2-9 and will play at Nevada today. The ninth-place team at the end of the regular season will not qualify for the WAC Tournament.
Louisiana Tech is looking to keep pace near the top of the standings. The Bulldogs trail only Utah State (9-2) and New Mexico State (8-3).
"The pressure is on Louisiana Tech, if you ask me," Balocka said. "They're at home, so if they beat us, so what? But if we win, it's a bad loss for them and a great win for us."
The Bulldogs feature two of the WAC's most dynamic players in guard Kyle Gibson and center Magnum Rolle.
Gibson, a 6-foot-5 senior, is third in the WAC in scoring with 21.3 points per game. Rolle, a 6-10 senior, is a double-double threat, averaging 14.8 points and 9.0 rebounds per game.
Hawai'i scored a 54-53 win at Louisiana Tech last season on a buzzer-beating putback by Balocka.
"It's a year later and many games have passed, so it doesn't make a difference," Balocka said. "But in the back of our minds, we know that's a place we can win."
The 'Bows already scored a victory of sorts yesterday, avoiding a snowstorm to get to Ruston. Several other flights in the area were either rerouted, delayed or canceled.
"There was a lot of snow on the ground, but otherwise it was clear," Nash said. "I guess we got in after all the snow."